Our Outrage Was Insufficient: Tent City Terrors

If we thought the outrage was sufficient to make the current administration reverse its inhumane immigration policies — we were wrong.  This from the New York Times two days ago:

In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in West Texas.

In their former residences the children had access to schools, and to legal assistance. In their new housing they are given workbooks (read: busy work) left ungraded or marked, and they have limited access to any legal assistance they might require.

How many children? 1,600 so far.  The capacity of the “tent city” to which the children were sent is now estimated at 3,800.  The Department of Health and Human Services says these transfers are being done to protect the children from trafficking and other abuses. Not. So. Fast.

“The roughly 100 shelters that have, until now, been the main location for housing detained migrant children are licensed and monitored by state child welfare authorities, who impose requirements on safety and education as well as staff hiring and training.

The tent city in Tornillo, on the other hand, is unregulated, except for guidelines created by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, schooling is not required there, as it is in regular migrant children shelters.” [NYT]

This doesn’t quite square with DHHS FAQs on the subject of housing and services:

UAC shelters provide housing, nutrition, physical and mental healthcare, educational services, and recreational activities such as television and sports. They provide an environment on par with facilities in the child welfare system that house American children.

The facilities are operated by nonprofit grantees that are certified by state authorities responsible for regulating such facilities housing children.

The statement above tends to summarize the guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services, (see below) but the situation in Texas certainly doesn’t sound like it comports with the requirements:

“Care providers must conduct an educational assessment within 72-hours of a UAC’s admission into the facility in order to determine the academic level of the child and any particular needs he or she may have. Care providers must provide educational services based on the individual academic development, literacy level, and linguistic ability of each unaccompanied alien child.

Each unaccompanied alien child must receive a minimum of six hours of structured education, Monday through Friday, throughout the entire year in basic academic areas (Science, Social Studies, Math, Reading, Writing, Physical Education, and English as a Second Language (ESL), if applicable). Care providers adapt or modify local educational standards to develop curricula and assessments, based on the average length of stay for UAC at the care provider facility, and provide remedial education and after school tutoring as needed. Learning materials must reflect cultural diversity and sensitivity. Any academic breaks must be approved in advance by the care provider’s Project Officer. In no event will any academic break be approved that is over two (2) weeks in duration.

Unaccompanied alien children may be separated into class groups according to their academic development, level of literacy, and linguistic ability rather than by chronological age. As needed, unaccompanied alien children must be provided an opportunity for learning advancement, such as independent study, special projects, pre-GED classes and college preparatory tutorials, among others. Academic reports and progress notes are included and updated in the unaccompanied alien child’s case file which is either sent to another care provider in the event of a transfer or released to the unaccompanied alien child upon discharge.

In short, if the children were left in “regular migrant shelters” then the guidance referenced above would be required, but it seems not to apply to the Tornillo facility, perhaps because the latter is considered “short term” or a transitory station for those who are to be released shortly?  This calls up the question: If the youngsters, presumably ages 13-17), are soon to be released then WHY move them at all?  And, the question about why move them at night is answered in the New York Times article: The authorities wanted to minimize the youngsters’ ability to run away.

Right now is as good a time as any to recall that:

(1) The Trump Administration hasn’t really done much to alter the inhumanity of its immigration policies, and certainly not in respect to our treatment of children.

(2) The Administration is increasing, not decreasing, its efforts to penalize, stigmatize, and traumatize people who approach our ports of entry seeking asylum. It is legal to seek asylum.  It is unconscionable to narrow the justification for seeking asylum such that almost no one becomes eligible.

(3) It is unconstitutional, immoral, indecent, and inhumane to separate children from their parents.  The Administration still has not fully complied with the court ordered reunification of parents and children.  The executive branch made a hash of the original plan, hoped no one would notice what a debacle the policy created, and then sought to have the ACLU become responsible for fixing the Administration’s mess.

(4) The Administration is currently seeking to hold some children indefinitely.  Indefinitely.

(5) The Administration is relying on the services of BCFS to provide the expertise and governance of the shelter.  BCFS advertises its world wide connections, but its government partnerships are mostly with Texas, along with Nevada, Washington, and Maine, and the City of Los Angeles.  It also lists various federal agencies among its partners.  There is certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with agencies farming out projects to non-profits, it’s done all the time in a variety of circumstances.  However, the old business adage always applies: “You can’t control what you don’t own.”

The bottom line appears to be that the administration is forging an immigration policy predicated on blatant racism (no Brownish Tinged People Need Apply) and founded on the concept that to make America great again America should be White.  How can we be great if we allow people to come from “Sh*thole Countries?”

It’s time to hear, very clearly, from our federal office seeking candidates — for example Senator Dean Heller (R-NV).  At what point do we stop advocating stop-gap partial fixes which “pronounce” the displeasure of Congress with the notion of separating children from their families, and take up REAL immigration policy reform?

When do we do the right thing?  Protect Dreamers?  Allow a path to citizenship for qualified productive members of our society? Protect naturalized citizens from petty prosecutions and pointless deportations?  Protect natural born citizens from ridiculously racist harassment? Cherish the children who come to us seeking our help and shelter?

“Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:23-24)

In other words, when do we cut the song and dance and do the right thing?

1 Comment

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One response to “Our Outrage Was Insufficient: Tent City Terrors

  1. This is an evil un-American presidency.